Rodrigo entering a GUTS-y edge


Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album GUTS delves into complicated teenage emotions in a rock, punk-ish style, setting it apart from her pop heavy album SOUR. The Sidekick news editor Sahasra Chakilam shares her thoughts on Rodrigo’s GUTS-y new record.

Being a teenage girl sometimes feels like a huge lump in your throat. That lump seconds before you cry. That lump when you’re red from embarrassment. That lump when you’re so filled with rage, all you want to do is spill your guts. 

Teenhood is a whirlpool of emotions and 20-year-old singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo dives into it in her new album, GUTS. Released Sept. 8, this marks Rodrigo’s sophomore album release. 

After exploring themes of youthful heartbreak in her first album, SOUR, Rodrigo further expands on the notion of teenage experience, uncovering its rawness and rage in GUTS. She showcases this shift in substance from anguish to angst by transforming her debut pop-alternative style into a more rock, punkish sound.

Right off the bat, Rodrigo makes a punch of punk with the confessional second track and lead single “bad idea right?” in which she lies to her friends about rekindling one of her past flames. Rodrigo’s vocal delivery reveals nuanced lyricism as she chats to listeners throughout the song about her blatant ignorance yet self-awareness. The 90s-like searing electric guitar and pulsating drumming carries her voice satisfyingly, making it a hook-laden single.   

Although Rodrigo executes this punk/rock approach well in the means of the overall album’s genre, the individual rock songs feel repetitive in production values, making them feel one-dimensional.

This is apparent when comparing  “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” “get him back!” and “love is embarrassing.” Rodrigo belts with the same angst and similar production values of the high-strung guitar and polyrhythmic drums in all of them, making the songs difficult to differentiate from. 

Moreover, Rodrigo incorporates analogous lyrical structures throughout the songs making the listening experience more repetitive than fresh. The songs cover pertinent teenage realities such as maintaining a social life, navigating tumultuous love and jealousy in a relationship, and those feel unheard when the music sounds the same in all of the songs. 

However, Rodrigo has always stood out in strong, emotional ballads, reminiscent of her singing in her early career in “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” as well as SOUR, and remains to do an exceptional job with that in this album. 

In the other lead single “vampire,” Rodrigo takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride with her hard-hitting storytelling and even more impacting vocal performance. Delicately singing,“‘Cause I’ve made some real big mistakes / But you make the worst one look fine” to resonantly verbalizing, “The way you sold me for parts / As you suck your teeth into me” feels truly vulnerable as Rodrigo reflects upon a toxic and advantageous dynamic. 

Often artists sing about the cost of fame, blaming the world for it, but in the in-depth sixth track “making the bed,” Rodrigo juxtaposes this idea, blaming herself instead as it is the result of her achieving her dreams. She voices, “They’re changing my machinery and I just let it happen / I got the things I wanted, it’s just not what I imagine,” showcasing a complex train of thought about her course of stardom. 

Rather than the frenetic instrumentals in other songs, the gentle playing of ivory keys in the raw seventh track “logical” contributes to Rodrigo’s poignant tone. As she pleads, “Cause if rain don’t pour and sun don’t shine / Then changing you is possible / No, love is never logical,” Rodrigo once again shines through with her vulnerability. 

Two tracks standing out as outliers are  “lacy” and “pretty isn’t pretty” as Rodrigo features different genres of folk-pop and indie-pop in them. In both tracks, Rodrigo discusses the societal pressures of being a put together teenage girl and the comparisons girls make to each other. The change in sound felt like a breath of fresh air, and almost healing in a way.  

The 12th and bracing final track “teenage dream” ties the album together as it is a homage to Rodrigo’s journey of growing up in the spotlight. 

GUTS is a multifaceted piece of work, just like the mind of a teenage girl. Throughout the album, Rodrigo exceptionally suppresses that lump in her throat and truly spills her guts.

Follow Sahasra (@sahasrachak24) and @CHSCampusNews on X.

Originally posted 2023-09-19 21:36:57.